Under Her Wing, Part 1

(by an4@anon.lelnet.com, 02 March 1997)


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Date: Sun, 2 Mar 1997 23:32:26 -0500 (EST)
From: an4@anon.lelnet.com
Newsgroups: alt.smokers.glamour
Subject: Under her Wing, Part 1
Organization: Alt.smokers.glamour society
Approved: asg-sub@lelnet.com

 	-Under Her Wing continues events from the Cameo-
   
   Sarah had never expected Debbie to apply for the Young Writer's Camp, which
made it less of a surprise that she didn't seem to be enjoying herself in the
least- although they were just rounding out the first day.
   Of the six girls entering their junior years at Hasek High only Debbie
seemed out of place. Looking at that long face for two weeks was not going to
be an happy task. And it was not what Elisa had intented when she'd set up
the scholarship last summer, right after resigning to work full time on her
writing career.
   Sarah had picked the Wild Shadows Inn after calling one of those numbers
Elisa always seemed able to provide. With Stanwick's dorms closed for
renovation this summer, every B and B in this part of southern Vermont was
booked solid for the two week session. They had almost the whole place to
themselves - four of the inn's five rooms- and so far the occupant of the
attic loft hadn't made an appearance.
   With the exception of Debbie, all of the girls were sitting at the long
dinner table drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.
   Helen and Marta were smoking Virginia Slims from a single pack, openly
holding hands. The uninformed viewer might have mistaken them for sisters.
They had the same long, curly, shock-black hair, vivid rosy skin colour, and
high cheek bones. They even smoked with the same frenetic energy. The
cigarettes were never out of motion, never held still longer than the space
of an inhale. They clearly patterned their exhales for dual enjoyment.
   Susan sat at the other end of the table, managing to look surly and put off
even though she was smiling faintly at some joke Brenda had just made. She
was smoking a Marlboro 100 she'd just pulled from the box with black-nailed
fingers, attacking it with her mouth at regular intervals as though she might
be enjoying sucking its life away. Her hair was a dull blonde colour, faded
from the sun, and it hung limply over skin that was as pale as that of a
vampire. Only her lips had any colour at all, a deep red that came away on
the tip of the cigarette like dried blood.
   Nevertheless, everyone at the table would have readily admitted she was far
and away the most attractive of the bunch.
   If Helen and Marta were twinish, Brenda and Susan were polar opposites.
Brenda's hair was naturally blonde but she'd dyed it with henna recently,
giving it a deep red luster. It was tossed and teased, like the smile which
never quite left her face. Where Susan was gaunt, almost skeletal on profile,
Brenda had a pleasant fullness to her face. She was slowly working a Marlboro
Lights 100, each inhale a study in patient pleasure, each exhale unique.
   Susan was vaguely tolerating another joke from Brenda, a sure sign of deep
friendship.
   Pricillia- they all called her Prissy, even to her face- was reading notes
from today's lecture. Her blondish hair was pulled back into a pony tail that
complimented her black wire-framed glasses perfectly. Sitting there with a
sheaf of papers in one hand and a Saratoga 120 in the other, she looked more
like a college student that a would be junior at Hasek.
   Sarah lit her own cigarette and settled back into her chair to sip coffee.
Even now, ten years later, her mother's wisdom still held. There was nothing
to compare with a cup of strong coffee and a cigarette. One inhale and one
mouthful of coffee was all it took to bring back memories- from high school,
from college, a random collage of past events all sharing the same tastes and
aromas. There was something pleasant about the way they washed over her,
opening a window on relaxation. After a five hour drive and half a day's
classes, it was nice to revert to the simple pleasures.
   She lifted her head to exhale away from Debbie, seated to her right, and
blew a thick cloud of sweet smoke directly into the face of Mrs. Tremblay,
who referred to herself as 'the innkeeper.'
   Tremblay didn't seem to mind.
   "Was everything all right with dinner ?"
   Better than all right, Sarah thought. If they ate like this for two weeks
the van they'd driven up in wouldn't be big enough for all of them when it
was time to leave.
   "Of course, Mrs. Tremblay."
   Tremblay seemed nice, but Sarah's initial impression of her was that she was
like a nosy aunt, not unwelcome yet capable of being bothersome.
   "One of the plates came back into the kitchen half-full."
   Debbie turned her head away, taking a sudden interest in a Revolutionary War
mural over the fireplace. Cornwallis surrendering, Sarah thought.
   "I'm sure it had seconds on it," Sarah lied gracefully.
   " 'Kay then."
   "Tell me, has the other guest arrived ?" Sarah asked.
   "Nope. But he's going to be one happy man, if you don't mind me saying."
   Tremblay struck Sarah as being sort of 'salt of the earth.' The wicked smile
the woman followed up her statement with reinforced the image. Not knowing
what to say, Sarah merely nodded her head.
   "Well, if you people are done, I'll be heading upstairs. There's a Bogart
Festival on Channel 3 and Gretchen will clear off the table when you get
done. If you need extra towels or anything, ask Gretchen for 'em. If you're
going to be out past midnight, take one of the keys hanging next to the door.
It locks automatically."

   Ken's ass was sore as hell. He'd been sitting here in the car for two hours
now, parked four blocks away from the Wild Shadows, trying to work up the
nerve-
   So she killed somebody ? What difference did that make ?
   Besides, she hadn't actually killed him. It had been an accident.
   But that Brendan fellow had died because somehow or other, she had known.
And now he was going to sleep under one of their   roofs with 8 of them  ? It
was just a little bit crazy. Why hadn't they just gotten him a room in
another B & B close by ? 
   Ken's bladder, obviously in collusion with his ass, sent a fresh shockwave
of selfish pain threading through his bowels. 
   It was ridiculous to be sitting here in a car, four blocks from his room,
his bladder a water balloon ready to burst, his backside feeling as though it
had been used to test sandpaper. It was especially silly when, after two long
and painful hours, Ken finally admitted to the truth to himself.
   He wasn't afraid of Sarah in the least. She was hardly even a part of the
group.
   Elisa Hooper was the person he was worried about.
   And she was hundreds of miles away.
   And oh yes, he did had a gun.
   Of course, Brendan had been carrying a gun. It hadn't helped him negotiate
that guard rail any better, had it ?
   Ken fell back on the breathing exercises. If there was one thing about your
training that was never overlooked, it was learning how to relax. After all,
smokers had a natural mechanism for relaxation. Calm was just the spinning of
a lighter wheel away. His people didn't have it so easy. Biofeedback, mental
exercises, breathing routines. More complicated than lighting a cigarette,
more sterile, but the end results were the same.
   Finally, he accepted that it would be easier to observe them from the Inn
than the inside of his car. He decided to leave it here for tonight, though.
Just in case things went south in a hurry. Getting out of the car and
actually standing up on the sidewalk was largely an exercise in mind over
matter. Ken began stomping his feet on the pavement to exorcise the pins and
needles.
   Finally, he thought he might be ready to take that four block walk.
   
   Just as Sarah was wondering if homesickness was Debbie's problem, the girl
looked at her and said "I think I'm going to take a walk, Ms.-"
   Sarah cut her off. "While we're here, Deb, just call me Sarah, okay ? How
would you like some company ?"
   That it took Debbie almost two full seconds to say yes was only a small blow
to Sarah's ego. All of the girls seemed to really like her- as a teacher-
even Susan, who went so far as to not make a show out of disliking her.
   They stood up and started walking away from the table when Debbie stopped
and said "Don't forget your cigarettes."

   It was a perfect summer night. There was no moon and the stars in the
Vermont sky were so vivid that Sarah imagined that she could spend the rest
of her life counting them.
   Ranford was exactly what one would expect from a small Vermont town. It was
a little after nine and the streets were almost bare. Lights burned in just
about every home and the only car moving on the street was a sheriff's
cruiser.  They didn't talk right away. Sarah left a trail of smoke in her
wake, careful to keep her exhales away from Debbie.
   Finally, just after she finished her cigarette, Sarah decided Debbie was
never going to get this started on her own.
   She felt a little displaced, like a camp counsellor ready to give the
 obligatory 'Honest, this is going to be fun' speech.
   "You know, when I first went away to college-" she started.
   Debbie stopped and looked at Sarah for the first time. "You weren't thinking
I was homesick, were you ?"
   Sarah smiled. "Yeah, actually. You look more distraught than Susan, and
she's had years of practise."
   "Why did you start smoking, Ms.- Sarah ?"
   "Is that what this is about ?"
   Debbie nodded her head and turned away sheepishly. "Yeah," she said,
sounding embarrassed.
   It was going to be hard to answer that question, Sarah realised. There were
a number of things she didn't think it would help either of them to share.
The cold metal back of the cameo suddenly became perceptible against her
skin, a presage to thought.
   "Does it bother you that we all smoke, Deb ?"
   The girl laughed faintly. "No. Not at all. I mean, we've all been friends
since, well, forever. It's no coincidence that all six of us applied for
scholarships to the seminar. I don't know. I think-"
   Seeing as Debbie was not bothered by her smoking, Sarah lit another
cigarette, enjoying a long, seamless inhale that sent a wash of gentle
pleasure throughout her body. Her nose exhale was self-absorbedly perfect-
until she saw something out of the corner of her eye.
   "Are you- thinking about starting ?" Sarah asked. "Because I have to be
honest. I think a person should have their own reasons for starting to smoke.
And I'm not sure as your teacher that it's my place-"
   Again, she thought she saw something out of the corner of her eye. Probably
a dog, she told herself, although it would have had to be a pretty damn big
one.
   "I know," Debbie said. "It's just that I'm curious, and well, I don't know.
The rest of them all smoke. Not one of them has any problems with their
parents about it. And I don't think I would, either. Mom's always smoked. I
know she expects me to start- soon."
   "But-"
   "That's the thing. I know there's a but, only I can't figure out what it
is."
   "Give it time, Debbie. In the meantime, try to enjoy the next two weeks. You
really have a lot of talent as a writer. I think you can get an awful lot out
of this seminar. That should be your focus."
   "You mean, like Prissy ?"
   Sarah laughed. "No. I said focussed. Not obsessed."
   Looking at Debbie, Sarah could see that she'd relaxed some. There was a more
natural cast to her stance and she'd stopped picking at the cuticles of her
fingers with her off hand. Maybe she actually had come up with some good,
simple advice. They turned around and retraced their steps, Sarah hardly
realising how intently Debbie was watching her smoke because she couldn't
shake the feeling that they were being followed. Which was patently absurd.
There was an itch at the back of her neck, right up under the cameo's chain.
   She scratched at it, but it wouldn't go away.

   


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